Thoughts on October Baby

I finally saw October Baby. I say “finally” because I had plans to see it when it came out with friends from church but wasn’t able to make it. Then I was invited by some women I volunteer with at the Choose Life pregnancy test center, but I wasn’t able to make that either. When this week’s movie schedule showed it was coming out of the theater this week, I caught the last matinee in my city. (Although if the dollar theaters pick it up several of us want to go see it there.)

There were a total of five of us in the theater. I slipped my flips flops off, munched on popcorn and Coke Zero and knitted. Yes, knitted, in the dark at the movie theater. (This knitting project which is to be blogged about in the future must be finished, so I’m knitting anywhere and anytime I can!)

October Baby is a Christian film, yet the conversations about God and faith are very natural and unforced like in some Christian movies. I didn’t feel like I was watching a “Christian” film, which I think is a good thing. Those who need to most hear the message of God’s love are turned off when beat over the head with salvation, but are receptive when seeing what God’s love is really like. So I was impressed that the filmmakers included the Christian message yet it wasn’t awkward or weird.

I was amazed at how many circumstances and people came together to save a life. A failed abortion. A nurse who had had enough of helping to abort babies. The scared birth mom. The doctors at the hospital where she was born. The cathedral that spread the word about babies in need of a home. The adoptive parents. The story in October Baby is fictional, yet every day are true stories of women in similar circumstances — women with unplanned pregnancies, post-abortive women, birth moms, adoptive moms, adopted children. In fact, unbeknownst to the writers and producers before the casting, the actress who played the birth mom had an abortion as a young woman and says that this film contributed to her finally dealing with that in a way she never had before.

Shari’s Story

I cried for pretty much the last 30 minutes of the film.

I cried for Hannah who struggled to feel wanted. Even after she found her birth mother, the woman still didn’t want anything to do with her.

I cried for the nurse who had helped abort so many babies, yet after the birth of Hannah she left the abortion industry to become a labor and delivery nurse.

I cried for Hannah’s brother who didn’t survive the abortion.

I cried for the adoptive parents who lost their babies, adopted Hannah and her brother, lost the brother and gave their life wanting and raising another woman’s child.

I cried for myself and some of the ways that I could relate to the various characters’ feelings of rejection and abandonment and trying to figure out “Who am I?”

See the movie. Don’t let all my crying keep you away. :)


Relevance & Proximity

“Do not judge your relevance to this fight by your proximity to the battlefield.”

On my second day at my new job, the above quote was on the wall of the Army facility I was touring.

The comment was made in 2005 by Gen. Dick Cody, Army Vice Chief of Staff, to a crowd of contractor and industry personnel who support the Army by developing and improving new technology (story here). I imagine it’s on the wall to encourage workers who may feel like they are working on some small or remote part that what they do is important to the big picture.

Well, my job is too and I was thankful for this reminder. My job? My job is to write about the success stories of the contract to which I’m assigned. I am to write about successful tests, advances in technology and the people behind the projects. These stories are important for boosting the morale of the workers and for making sure the public and our government officials are aware of the kind of work we do.

As a writer, I’m even more removed from  “the fight” than those working in that facility. But I still have relevance, and I take this responsibility seriously.

I was first made aware of this at NASA, although I think I’ve had some sense of the relevance and influence of writers at each of my writing positions. At NASA, we often wrote to “inspire the next generation of explorers.” We weren’t the scientists or astronauts, but we filled a unique role in furthering the cause of space exploration: the role of educating the public and students about what their space agency was doing and hopefully inspiring them to get involved.

The same is true wherever you are. Everyone plays a role. We must all do our part.

Earth Day 2012


In the background, my Earth Day tree from five years ago. In the foreground, the one I planted last year.

I like to celebrate Earth Day and take the opportunity to remind myself to take better care of God’s creation and do what I can to help.

The last 5 years I’ve gotten a free tree, either from the NASA Earth Day celebration or my city’s celebration. This year I missed both, one because I’m no longer a NASA employee and the other because I didn’t know about it time to go. Each year I want to get the free Target tote but I never make it before they’re all given out (although special circumstances allowed me to get one last year). So I wasn’t really sure how to “celebrate” Earth Day this year. I contemplated taking “green” steps like starting a simple compost pile or making a rain barrel, but for now both of those ideas are on hold.

So in lieu of my usual traditions, the boys and I planted flowers. I let them each pick a few packets of seeds at the local home improvement store and we used some old clay pots that were recycled/rescued from the side of the road. It wasn’t much but felt good to at least play with dirt. We also stepped up some of our recycling efforts as I’ve gotten a little lazy lately and not been as diligent with a few items.

How did you celebrate Earth Day?

Why I don’t want to see ‘The Lucky One’

I used to like it when books were made into movies. As long as I had read the book first it was OK. But I’ve seen so many movies-based-on-books lately that I’ve become jaded. The on-screen version rarely lives up to the way the story played out in my mind.

When I read, the characters come to life. They look and speak and dress a certain way, and the way I picture it never lines up with how they’re portrayed in movies.

With the Twilight books/movies, I read the book series after seeing the first movie, so in that case I pictured the actors from the movie as I read. Similarly, I saw The Help and still haven’t read the book, so I imagine if I were to ever read it I would be more likely to see the movie actors in the story than I would be to imagine my own. I read One Day and have yet to see the movie, yet even having just seen the previews with Anne Hathaway, she was the one I saw in my mind as I read. So if I see the movie first, it’s OK and actually has the potential to enrich the book-reading experience.

But if I’ve already read the book, the movie rarely improves upon the book and usually doesn’t live up. Something Borrowed, Water for Elephants and most recently The Hunger Games were all better in my mind than on the screen.

So all of that leads to the point — why I’m not that excited about The Lucky One, the latest movie based on a Nicolas Sparks’ book (complete list of Sparks-based movies here). Sparks is one my favorite authors; I’ve read all but two of his books, including The Lucky One. I enjoyed the book and don’t want the movie version to take any of that away. I still haven’t seen The Last Song because while I enjoyed the book I was little miffed when I found out later that Sparks wrote the book so that Miley Cyrus could star in the movie version.

I’ll probably come around and eventually see them both. I just find it interesting the relationship between books and movies and how it’s a heightened experience for some yet has the potential to take away something for others. What about you — do you read the book first, see the movie first or does it matter?

Book Review: Picking Cotton

The only thing that would’ve made the book Picking Cotton any better would have been if the true story had taken place in Alabama where we actually grow cotton. I was attracted to the title at the bookstore sidewalk sale because of its title, imagining some great fictional southern tale. What I found, though, was much better.

Cotton is a man’s last name, a man who spent 12 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit all because he was the one “picked” in the police lineup. Get the title now?

A woman was raped, and in the distressful moments that followed she made a mistake. Her mistake cost an innocent man a huge chunk of his life. But the greatest part of this story is the redemption and reconciliation that later takes place between accuser and accused.

This book is a good choice if you like true crime stories with happy endings. It’s also a quick and easy read, told in a back-and-forth first-person format.

Who puts the “pop” in Pop Culture?

Who determines what’s popular?

When I was in middle school, we all had straight hair and bangs like Brenda and Kelly on 90210. A few years later we all had layered hair like Rachel on Friends. Nowadays everyone likes to wear spirally locks like Taylor Swift. Why? What made those looks “popular” and why do we all want to do the popular thing.

The answer is psychological in nature I’m sure, and I’m not a psychologist. But an idea was introduced to me a few years ago in a course on media and society that really broadened my view. Let’s see if I can explain it here.

There’s the most popular thing, right? The No. 1 song, No. 1 movies, favorite actors, hairstyles, etc. But then there’s those that take pride in not liking the popular thing. They like inde films or unheard-of artists or dress how they want which is not according to what everyone else is wearing. But — and here’s the idea that was new to me — even those people are choosing from what’s available andsomeone has decided what’s going to be available. Even if you don’t like the mainstream things, even choosing from lesser-known consumables is a choice made from what some person or company has made available for you to decide from. You can’t choose from something that’s not there. So in that way, consumers are still at the mercy of the “powers that be.”

Now, we are in a unique place right now in history in that the deciders are broader than ever before. Thanks to the Internet and social media sites and blogs, a lot of power has shifted to “the people.” We’re not as reliant on big companies with lots of money to put in front of us only what they want us to see or buy. Anyone can have a web page and a Twitter feed, and if the public likes their content then they become influential without any backers. Then people with money show up to support and promote what the individual has made popular on their own. In fact, I think large corporations feel threatened by this shift which is why they, too, are trying to figure out how to best leverage the Internet and social media, lest they be squeezed out altogether.

It’s a shift with more available to us now than ever before, yet we’re still at someone else’s mercy. We can’t listen to a band that doesn’t exist or see a movie that no one has made.

Book Review: As Silver Refined, Answers to Life’s Disappointments

I love Kay Arthur! I heard her speak a few years ago and it was like she was speaking directly to me. Such wisdom and depth and encouragement from someone who’s really been there.

The same is true for her books. I was excited to have the opportunity to review As Silver Refined: Answers to Life’s Disappointments because I was am looking for my own answers to the disappointing things in my life. The word picture of us as silver in the fire and God as our Refiner is beautiful. The opening chapter describes a Jewish metalurgist purifying the silver by inserting into the fire and letting the dross — the impurities — run off and having to sometimes turn up the fire to get to some of the more stubborn parts. I don’t know about you, but I can relate to being submitted to fiery situations and having all my impurities surface and then having the heat turned up on me again!

The book has goes into depth on several themes, however the two I most enjoyed were several chapters on meekness followed with a sincere look at what God’s sovereignty really means. I had never before delved into a study on meekness, but this part of the book captivated me. Meekness is often coupled with humility and may be seen as being passive or weak. It was easier for me to understand meekness when I looked at what it was not. “The opposite of meekness is not strength but rather lack of control, an untamed and unbroken wildness,” Arthur writes. Because meekness is a fruit of the spirit, to be meek is to respond in the spirit. If we’re not acting in meekness, we’re reacting in the flesh. To be meek is to act, not re-act. This hit me square between the eyes as something I am not but want to be and something that my fires have revealed. My lack of meekness is an impurity, dross, that has come oozing out when the flames have heated up.

As with any Kay Arthur book I’ve read, get ready to get into the Word and go deep. Don’t let that deter you from this book. In fact let that encourage you to read it. A deep look at meekness, sovereignty and courage may be just what you need!

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.